On Adversity — Written August 2017

Written August 2017*

This year alone, I have felt the consequences from my own actions, the actions of others, sometimes both, and
sometimes neither—because sometimes hard times just come, no matter how hard we try to prevent them. I
have shed countless tears asking God to change my circumstances, asking Him “Why?” and there are still
things that I don’t have that answer to. I wanted life to be what I had planned it to be, and truthfully, there are
times when I still feel a deep sense of loss when I think about what could have been—but God has given me
more, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

Brother Williams asked me to speak about, quote, “my struggles and the way I am trying to overcome them
one by one.” Which is a lofty subject! My struggles, one by one! I’m grateful that, as my heart started pounding,
I looked over to my mirror and saw quotes that I have hung up throughout the last few months, and decided to
divide up my talk by these quotes. I also intend to speak about both the major struggles in our lives, and the
day-to-day quest to turn our weaknesses to strengths, come closer to our Savior, and work toward that eternal
goal of perfection, which, I should note, is not expected of us anytime soon, thank goodness!

To begin, Elder Robert D. Hales states: “If you are suffering deeply, with others or alone, I urge you to let the
Savior be your caregiver. Lean on His ample arm. Accept His assurances, “I will not leave you comfortless: I
will come to you,” he promises.”

There are a couple things worth sharing that friends have told me in my own dark times, such as: Let emotions
be a visitor, not a permanent resident. Let emotions come and go as waves. Feel the pain/sadness/anger/etc.,
but don’t dwell there. And, one of my favorite reminders, Pain is a tunnel, not a cave. Again, pain is a tunnel, not a cave.
You will get through it.

In Elder Oak’s talk “Adversity,” he shares a lesson he learned about cattle when they face severe winter
storms. However, I first heard this story from another source—from a blog post about healing from betrayal
trauma—and I’m going to quote from that right now, as I connect with the wording a bit more.

The author states, “Cattle are known for their timid nature and when the wild prairie land storms approach, they
often run away from the storm, the wind at their backs. For them, it makes the most sense. It’s easier to run
away with the wind at your back. But, the cost is this: the winds often overtake the cattle, and they struggle
longer in the chaos of the storm.

“Buffalo are quiet, fierce creatures, and when the wild prairie land storms come, they often turn into the wind.
They stand with their great heads down, feet grounded and their shoulders up, bearing the brunt of the storm.
It’s hard work for a lone buffalo. But, when her tribe surrounds her, they gather together, shoulder to shoulder
and deliberately step into the wind. And, the gift is this: the tribe is bound together in strength and they walk
through the storm together, passing more quickly through the winds and chaos.”

The two things I learn from this story are: 1. We are better off facing the storm, feet grounded and shoulders
up, than hiding, numbing, running away, or falling back on any other negative coping mechanism. And 2. We
don’t have to face the storm alone. We have a loving Heavenly Father who we can pray to, scripture we can
read from, a patriarchal blessing we can read to remember our eternal worth, priesthood blessings to receive,
and surely many more sources of divine aid available to us.

Aside from divine aid, I have also been very fortunate to have close friends around me who have had my back
in my darkest moments, who love me no matter what and let me know that. I hope to always be that kind of
friend to those around me. I’ve found that oftentimes, burdens aren’t nearly as heavy when we have a loving,
trustworthy friend by our side. If you are carrying a burden and feel the need to keep it hidden from every
person around you, I urge you to reconsider. Greater light will come into your life as you prayerfully find
support, whether it be from the Bishop, which I highly, highly encourage, or from a trustworthy friend.

In his talk, Elder Oaks focuses on how we respond to adversity. He states, “Our responses [to adversity] will
inevitably shape our souls and ultimately determine our status in eternity. Because opposition is divinely
decreed for the purpose of helping us to grow, we have the assurance of God that in the long view of eternity it
will not be allowed to overcome us if we persevere in faith. We will prevail. Like the mortal life of which they are
a part, adversities are temporary. What is permanent is what we become by the way we react to them.”

I can testify that that is true: it doesn’t matter whether or not we experience trials and adversity in our lives,
because each of us has and will—but it matters how we respond to our trials and adversity: Do we hold onto
God and to whatever testimony we have? Or do we turn away from God—in anger, rebellion, grief, or hiding in
shame?

I have not always been the best at holding onto God in the midst of adversity, but it usually doesn’t take me too
long to realize that I’m better off with God than without Him. If I am conversing with God in prayer, studying my
scriptures, finding time to focus on Him through my day, and striving to keep the commandments and the
covenants I have made—regardless of anything going on in my life, I still have even an ounce of peace that I
know the world cannot give me. It can only come from one place, and that is my Father in Heaven.
Friends, God did not change my circumstances, no matter how much I begged and pleaded, but I am a much
stronger, compassionate, understanding, and resilient woman than I used to be. Those are the gifts I can take
with me through eternity.

Part 2! The day-to-day quest to turn our weaknesses to strengths, come closer to our Savior, and work toward
perfection. I should note, this is very connected to adversity for me, because I often become very aware of my
shortcomings in those darker times, then take the time to strengthen those shortcomings, learn from my
mistakes, in the time following. Elder Oaks quoted author Elaine Cannon when she said, “When we are
pushed, stung, defeated, embarrassed, hurt, rejected, tormented, forgotten—when we are in agony of spirit
crying out ‘why me?’ we are in a position to learn something.”

A few months back, I was studying Elder Sabin’s last conference talk and this sentence stood out to me:
“When we are fully committed and ‘all in,’ heaven shakes for our good.” When I heard this, I knew I wasn’t
where I wanted to be. I wasn’t experiencing any earth shaking adversity, but I saw the subtle areas I could
improve upon in my life. Elder Sabin’s promise—that heaven will shake for our good if we are fully committed
to the gospel of Jesus Christ— is something I want. I’ve had this quote up on my mirror for about two or three
months now. Even if I can’t see the fullness of it yet, it is still something I work toward, and is worth doing the
refining work for.

Turning our weaknesses to strengths, learning to rely on God, and all of those worthwhile day-to-day
endeavors are a PROCESS.

One of my favorite talks is entitled “On Being Worthy” by Marvin J. Ashton. I highly recommend it. Of this
process of perfection, he states: “The speed with which we head along the straight and narrow path isn’t as
important as the direction in which we are traveling. That direction, if it is leading toward eternal goals, is the
all-important factor.”

Or, in other words, it doesn’t matter how fast we are going, we just need to keep moving forward.

I still have those hard times that I spoke about earlier. I still get triggered. I still carry some pain about the past,
and fears about the future. But I’m working on them, and many other day-to-day goals, one at a time. Not
stressing about it, but being mindful about the things I want to work on, often just one at a time. I write notes
and reminders on sticky notes, on my hand, on my phone. I journal about them. I even have a reminder on my
necklace for one of the things. I talk to God about it. I do my best, and practice forgiving myself when I fall
short. Because I do. We all do. That’s why life is a process. ETERNITY is a process.

One thing that I feel I can share about right now is how I’m learning to let go. This is so hard for me. This year,
I’ve had to learn to let go of people, expectations, hurt, and sometimes even hope. When I think I have
mastered letting go, I am given more to let go of. Layer after layer of things to let go of. It’s been painful. It’s
been heartbreaking. At times, I’ve felt a deep sense of loss and grief.

But it’s become easier. I struggle a bit less when I need to let go of something or someone in my life. I have
greater faith in God and His plan, knowing that it is far better than my own. And I have hope that things will all
work out however they’re supposed to. These are things that I’ve had to learn, practice, and be mindful about,
instead of reverting to fear. Again, it’s a process.

___

 

*This was a talk that I gave in church in August 2017, and I thought of it again today—I NEEDED it today. So if you are reading this now, I hope it offers you some light today! 🙂